Digital Culture –| 2008

electronic art, technology and culture

the future is the past is the future is

with 7 comments

Ok! One of the areas I’m concerned about, because it’s something I struggle with, is the idea of embodied-ness. I don’t really live in my body, I feel. It is (to an extent) a support mechanism for my brain. I live behind my eyes and everything else is extraneous.

I mean, this is an exaggeration, as obviously I use my body for a whole raft of things on a day-to-day basis, but it is a very small part of my self-concept. I’d be fairly comfortable with the idea of being uploaded into a computer, if it didn’t change the way I thought, for instance.

So what? Well, one of the readings this week (The prologue to “how we became posthuman”) touches on the subject and since my project for this class is going to focus on the idea, I thought I’d write some stuff about it.

But then I got distracted, by this: The Machine Stops. It’s a story where people live in tiny rooms, communicate with each other about abstracted ideas via videoconferencing and instant messaging, and about one guy who wants to experience the real world outside his room, and his prophecy that the Machine, which makes all the world work, will one day Stop.

So, the author invented the internet, and, uh, facebook, I guess, and this whole idea of the disembodied experience of the mediated world… in 1909.


Holy crap.

You can find links to the full text, or an audiobook version, at the bottom of the Wiki page.


I’m working on a children’s book, for the near future. It will explain to them the idea between the self as body (or embodied, really) and the self as mind (disembodied information). There’ll be two books, one called ‘self as body’, and the other called ‘self as mind’, which will have the same images. However, the text explaining the images will be different, taking on the bias of the philosophical argument the book is presenting – self as body will present the idea that what we think of as the self is not solely a cognitive/information process, but is heavily dependent on the entirety of the physical bodies we possess, wherease the other will present the idea that the self is a pattern of information which can be replicated in other media (c.f. Marshall MacLuhan’s definition of information as being entirely independent of the substrate. Which is an interesting idea for a surface-level comparison with his idea that the medium is the message. I haven’t read his works recently enough to think about this, however).

Anyway. It’s late. This has been my working theory of what I’ll be doing, sometime over the next few months.

(hit a bunch of categories as they all seem relevant – can we get a general ‘project posts’ category, or a misc interesting stuff?)

7 Responses

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  1. Hey, “The Machine Stops”‘s concept sounds very interesting and I’ll definitely check it out.

    About your children’s book – What style of illustration are you going for? I’m from illustration so I’m very interested.


    September 9, 2008 at 1:26 am

  2. Hey Pete.
    In my head it’s a kind of sketchy, no-background, simple lines with watercolours thing (does this make any sense? I can’t think of an example of what I’m after), but I’ll have to speak to my illustrator about it further, and see how he feels about the whole thing.


    September 9, 2008 at 1:30 am

  3. That’s a VERY interesting discussion that you started there! And I look forward to plunging right into it – tonight! … You know Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception, I assume? Check out: and this appears good:


    September 9, 2008 at 2:00 am

  4. the condition is quite like what we see in Aeon Flux movie… the human’s habitat is defined by a “safety wall” and the authority propagate the “danger” behind that wall…


    September 9, 2008 at 2:39 am

  5. Thanks, Petra. I hadn’t been aware of his work, because I haven’t really looked into the theory side of things, I’ve just kind of been bashing it about in my brain. Well, except for Searle, as an anti-AI theorist, which is kind of incidentally a pro-embodiment argument, but I think Searle is straight-up wrong about a lot of things in his AI writings, so that’s really no help.

    it’s a relatively common theme, I guess, but I think this would be amongst the first to address it – it was a reaction to one of HG Wells’ technological utopias, and while Wells did a good line in dystopias as well, I don’t know as how he ever removed the agency from humans in those dystopias. Once the idea that technology could steal agency from us, the ones who created it, was around, though, it became a frightening subject…

    This also reminds me of the movie Alphaville, which I should watch at some point. It’s about a city run by a giant computer… it’s very uncomfortable to watch, because the guy who made it deliberately made the sound and vision wrong (wrong as we’ve come to expect from hollywood movies, anyway).


    September 9, 2008 at 3:54 am

  6. Can you post something on Alpahville for us to look at together in class and discuss?


    September 15, 2008 at 4:32 pm

  7. wiki page – I haven’t seen the whole thing, just sections of it (for sound design class last semester).

    The wiki page is pretty comprehensive, though.


    September 16, 2008 at 1:41 am

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